In a March 12 episode of the popular show Dr. Phil, the TV host told a couple to not combine caregiving duties and romance. The relationship had been experiencing troubles since Harley had taken on full time caregiver duties for her quadriplegic boyfriend, Bailey. Dr. Phil advised that Harley and Bailey could not balance a romantic relationship with the burden of full time caregiving, for which Bailey was not professionally trained.
"You can be his lover or you can be his caregiver, but you can't be both... It won't work, 100 out of 100 times this won't work," Dr. Phil said in the episode.
Many caregivers both in and out of the military community took exception to this statement, sparking social media posts using the hashtag #100outof100. Sara Hosea, a caregiver to her Army veteran John, was among them. Her open letter to Dr. Phil originally ran on Facebook.
Dear Dr. Phil,
When I read what you had to say, that an able-bodied woman dating a disabled man "can be his lover or you can be his caregiver, but you can't be both... It won't work, 100 out of 100 times this won't work", the only conclusion I could come to is this:
"One hundred out of 100 times this won't work??" You sir, obviously have never known the unique honor that it is to care for the one you love most.
I met my husband 23 years ago. When we met, we were two crazy kids with big plans for the future. We've been married over 21 years now and us, like many other couples have had our fair share of ups and downs. We've enjoyed the adventure and endured the heartache that came with being a military family. We've raised and are still in the process of raising four amazing, beautiful girls. You might say, before caregiving came into the picture, we were just the awesome, typical example of an American family trying to make our way the best we could.
Almost seven years ago life changed for us. John was deployed to Afghanistan when his truck hit an IED (improvised explosive device). The explosion shattered John's back, his left femur, his right ankle, and left him almost dead for over 27 minutes.
He spent many months in patient at the hospital learning to walk again -- and oh my goodness if you can believe it, my daughters and I were right by his side caring for him every step of the way.
Life as we knew it had changed. John required full time care and my role went from not just his spouse, but his full time caregiver. From physical therapy sessions to doctor appointments, to showering, toileting and dressing, there wasn't really anything John and I didn't do together.
We eventually learned together how to navigate life again.
Just when life seemed to be getting back to "normal," about six months ago John was on a retreat with some other wounded veterans and was involved in a helicopter crash. This crash broke his hip, his collarbone, his right rib fibula, his sternum and a few ribs, and I was again bedside at the hospital, because do you know what these injuries couldn't break? They couldn't break his spirit, our family, or his and my enduring love for one another.
Because this, this is what you're not understanding, Dr. Phil.
You said, "There are a lot of people that can be his caretaker, but there are not a lot of people who can be his girlfriend and his lover. It's not your job. You're either going to be his lover or his caretaker. It's way above your paygrade. You're not skilled for that either."
While I may not be "skilled" to be his caregiver sir, I choose to be because I love him. And my love for him is where my "skill" comes from. I ask questions from those educated in the areas of expertise when I need to, and I care for my lover in the best way I know how.
These years have taught me that love is more than having just my own needs met, it's also about caring for my husband's needs as well. During these years, I've also never been more loved, more frustrated, or more humbled. These years as his caregiver and his lover have taught me that romance is still found even when it's not the same kind of romance that society "thinks it should be".
Did you ever think how helpful you could be if maybe if you spent your time and influence encouraging those women in my situation rather than trying to make them think that there is something wrong with them?
Caregiving is scary. It's sometimes a sleep deprived, meals missed, lonely, task. What those brave enough to take on this role need is encouragement, understanding, patience, education and love. What we don't need is for someone to pass judgment on us. Each situation is uniquely different and believe me sir, the one thing we all share is love for the one we care for.
I continue to care for my husband today and love him so much more than I ever thought possible.
To the sweet couple Harley and Bailey who were featured on the show: I know it's hard. I know there are days that you both feel like you just can't give anymore. But don't quit. Keep making each other happy, and on the days when you don't feel like making each other happy, try harder. And don't ever, ever let anyone tell you what your definition of love needs to be.
Sara Hosea, wife and caregiver to John Hosea, the bravest man I've ever known.